WASHINGTON – After a narrow committee approval Tuesday, retired Manhattan federal judge Michael Mukasey could be confirmed as attorney general by the Senate as early as Thursday.
Yet if approved as expected, Mukasey still will be taking on a very difficult 14-month job, faced with unsettled questions about the legality of waterboarding.
He also will be on a tightrope, trying to fulfill vows to Senate Democrats while carrying out policies of President George W. Bush, who appointed him.
And Mukasey must do so without the full bipartisan mandate he once appeared to command after Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., first suggested him as a compromise choice.
Schumer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., tipped the balance of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, defying the other eight Democrats and joining the nine Republicans in voting to approve him 11-8.
But the committee action did little to assuage the distrust many Democrats have for him.
Mukasey instilled that uneasiness when he testified that he backs Bush’s claims of inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless wiretaps and repeated refused to state waterboarding is illegal torture.